A Journey towards the ‘other’
Aside from being a "Dominican" kid at heart, I have learned to love Philosophy since the moment I entered college. In the past three years of my life, besides being an active member of the Dominican Youth Network, I've been gearing toward excellence in Philosophy. I've been dreaming of getting a Master’s degree, a Doctorate degree (and maybe more), and eventually become a professor. That is my ultimate dream until an event last July 13, 2013 that changed the direction of my life.
I was a participant of the International Dominican Youth Movement World Encounter at Bogotá, Colombia. One of our activities was to visit Fizdeko, one of the slum areas of the country, and preach there. We had two options: to play with the adorable kids of the community; or to facilitate a short session with the adults. My English-speaking friends chose to be with the kids. It seemed that it was the reasonable thing to do, for we cannot really have a fruitful conversation with the adults who spoke only Spanish; and, likewise, we are ignorant of their language. I reflected on situation as I always do. I pondered on the options and I simply had to think it over again. Will I join the English-speakers with the charming, energetic and smiling kids of Fizdeko or the Spanish-speakers with the grown-ups of the community?
Then, I remembered St. Thomas Aquinas’ summary of St. Dominic de Guzman’s intuition: “Pass on to others what we ourselves have contemplated”. Before the activity, we were told to reflect on Matthew 6:19-21; it is about the treasures in heaven. I had some insights about the Gospel passage and I told myself that if I let this moment pass without taking action, my thoughts might just simply mix with the silence of the cool Colombian breeze. I simply had to step up and go beyond what I thought I could only do. I ended up in the short sessions with the adults.
There were two groups of adults. The other room was facilitated by Fr. Jorge Angarita, OP. I had to make sense! My mind was in panic. Nevertheless, I was accompanied by a very good Colombian friend named Felipe Forero. Though we only had very little knowledge of each other’s language, he became my translator throughout the sessions. Being the only Asian inside the room and being the smallest (aside from the three kids with their mothers whose age ranges between two to five years old), all eyes were on me. I introduced myself and they asked me questions about the Philippines: how's our economy, what kind of food we eat, how is the climate, and of course, what are the traditional dances.
After answering all their questions, it was now my time to ask them: “¿Que cosa es muy mas importante que otra cosas?” I have terrible Spanish, but somehow, they all understood my question perfectly. I knew this because they all answered “Familia, los niños, y las niñas…” This made me smile for it was actually easier to expound on the Gospel.
When it seemed that I have said enough and there’s nothing more to say, I remembered something very important and I asked them “Who wants to go to heaven?” Almost immediately after Felipe had translated, all of them were raising their hands. I asked, “¿Porque?” Everybody stared blankly for a second or two. Maybe the question was a bit new and peculiar. Some of the answers were, “because in heaven there is no suffering”, “because in heaven we are all equal”, “because in heaven there are only riches” and “because in heaven we will always be happy.” Their answers filled my heart. I knew that this was free wisdom that I was getting from them. They were all older than me and whenever one of them wishes to say something, I was most eager to listen.
In the end, I shared to them the reason why I wanted to go to heaven. My answer was inspired by Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation from EWTN: “I want to go to heaven because I know that, all my life, someone has loved me completely and unconditionally. Even before I was born, that ‘someone’ has loved me, and even though I’ve done bad things, that love remains unaffected. I want to go to heaven because if I go there, I will finally be with that person who has loved all of me all my life.” A fifteen second silence was followed by the most important claps I have received all my life. This was even better than when I delivered my first paper in Philosophy. First, it felt so great to share something you hold important. Second, their smiles and the way they looked at me, after I said those ideas, were priceless. Even now as I am writing this, I remember how their eyes glowed while looking at me and that fills me with so much joy. After the event, two elder men of the community shook my hand and hugged me tightly. Though I cannot completely comprehend what they were saying, the message was clear and until now it lingers. Maybe this is what being a true Dominican is about. That priceless and yet selfless happiness one feels when you have reached the other.
Before I left our country, I was so excited to meet other people with different cultures. I was simply excited to improve my Spanish. I was also looking forward to share to the IDYM the DOMNET Family in the Philippines. But amidst these, I was honestly troubled and saddened because I had to leave Philosophy for a while. For a time, I will not have time to read and I will miss my most treasured lectures of my professors.
When we got back, I was literally a changed person. I still love Philosophy, but by this time, I know that there is something more out there. Though important, the goal of my life is not just to earn a Doctorate degree in Philosophy. The new goal of my life is to make sure that I reach out to the other through my chosen field of endeavor. I must never get tired of giving more because I have been blessed with an unlimited source of love and hope – GOD. Philosophy is no longer the trophy, it is the tool that I am to use to be able to touch hearts and make other people see more clearly. The day will come when everybody wants to go to heaven not simply because it is a place free from suffering, but because it is where we are all supposed to be as children of God. One day, the world will understand and I pray that God uses me as an instrument for this understanding of the world.
Mi español es terible. I was only a nineteen year old thrown in a room with community of grown-ups. I was in a foreign land and it was so cold; yet, everything worked out. There is no denying that this is where I am supposed to be: Praising, blessing, and preaching.©
ABOUT THE SHARER:
Venus Ae Kaiel P. Basa is a student of the Faculty of Arts and Letters Major in Philosophy at University of Santo Tomas in Manila. She is the National Treasurer of DOMNET Youth Group; and a member of the International Dominican Youth Movement
Special, OP Youth, Dominican, Mission, Heaven, Generosity, Philosophy, Preaching